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Is Your Tween an Overscheduled Child?

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Some parents may remember the days when neighborhood kids gathered together after school for pick-up football or baseball games. No adults, no rules, no worries. Those days are gone. Today's children participate in a variety of after school activities, such as organized sports, music lessons and many more. For most children, these activities are organized by an adult, and fairly structured.

But some children participate in so many activities that they are what's commonly referred to as overscheduled. Overscheduled kids are children who frenetically go from one activity to another, often with little or no down time. Their busy parents hustle them from one meeting or practice to another. They finish homework in the car, or early in the morning. Family dinners rarely come together and family schedules are almost impossible to follow.

If you think your child might fall into the overscheduled category, you may want to consider reading further. Participation in after school activities can be a wonderful experience for your child. But if your tween is overscheduled, the consequences of involvement may overshadow any benefits. Here's what you should know.

It's a Matter of Time

Children, like adults, need time to regroup and re-energize. Middle school can be especially demanding on tweens as homework and other school responsibilities increase. While in middle school, students will feel pressure from teachers, parents and even peers -- pressure to take advanced courses, excel in extracurriculars and prepare for high school and even college.

All that pressure can build up over time leaving students feeling stressed, anxious or even depressed. Students who have little or no time for friends, or introverted children who need down time to regroup may feel especially burdened by busy schedules.

And there are other drawbacks. Tweens with little free time may burn out before they even hit high school, leaving them uninterested in activities or unwilling to participate on teams or in organizations, just when they should be beefing up their resumes for college.

Consider Cutting Back

If your child complains about having too much to do, or shares that he no longer wants to play soccer, you might want to consider cutting back on his activities, at least temporarily. And don't worry about it. Cutting back on extracurriculars won't harm your child's chances of success later in life. In fact, by giving your child a few more hours a day, you could help him establish a strong academic base that will help him in high school and beyond. There's also a chance that your child may only want a temporary leave of absence from his activities. He may decide to return to them next season, or over the summer when school schedules aren't as demanding.

When deciding whether or not to reduce your child's commitment load, consider the advantages of cutting back. You may have more time for family dinners or time together to watch television or even work out. You may even find that you have more weekend time together, to take a short trip or even a day trip together.

Cutting back on activities may also benefit you. Transporting kids from one commitment to another can be stressful for parents, especially working parents who have little free time as it is. Your stress is felt by every member of your family, one way or another. Fewer commitments for you could mean everyone wins.

And fewer activities can mean more money in your pocket at the end of the day. That can also benefit your child and your family, especially if you decide to invest those saved dollars in your child's college fund, or the family vacation fund.

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